Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote a letter to state schools chiefs dated July 31, asking them to review their current policies on restraint and seclusion.
Duncan’s comments on this issue come in the way of a May hearing on restraints and seclusion that was held before the House education committee. He also uses the letter to give a pat on the back to Illinois:
My home State of Illinois has what I believe to be one good approach, including both a strong focus upon Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) as well as State regulations that limit the use of seclusion and restraint under most circumstances. ...The State’s requirements, which I found to be extremely helpful as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, were described in testimony at the hearing. Illinois prohibits the use of seclusion or restraint for the purpose of punishment or exclusion, and allows trained staff to restrain students only in narrow circumstances.
Duncan isn’t giving states too much time to make changes to policies, if they’re needed:
I have asked Fran Walter of our Office of Elementary and Secondary Education to work with staff from our regional Comprehensive Centers to contact your office by August 15, to discuss the status of your State’s efforts with regard to limiting the use of seclusion and restraint to protect our students. During this contact, we expect to discuss relevant State laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that affect the use of seclusion and restraint, and any plans for further development or revisions.
I wonder if any changes will be made in California or Texas, two states singled out for particular attention in a recent federal report that examined cases of restraint and seclusion nationwide.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.